Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Sona Dimidjian

Second Advisor

Soo Rhee

Third Advisor

Joanna Arch

Fourth Advisor

Bernadette Park

Fifth Advisor

Stefanie Mollborn


Postpartum depression (PPD) among adult women is a prevalent and impairing problem, with evidence suggesting risk of adverse consequences for mothers and their infants. Few studies have investigated the problems of PPD among adolescents; however, both the emergence during adolescence of increased risk for depression among girls compared to boys and the prevalence of adolescent pregnancy suggest that this is a topic worthy of increased attention. The present thesis examines correlates of adolescent PPD, as well as an intervention for low-income adolescent mothers with symptoms of PPD. Study 1 investigated the relationship between depressive symptom severity and potential individual vulnerability and social context factors among a sample of adolescent mothers (N=102). Results indicate that adolescent PPD symptoms are associated with the number of negative life events, perceived discrimination, deficits in social support, anxiety symptom severity, perceived stress, impaired bonding and deficits in interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation. The best fitting model from the stepwise regression analyses indicated that perceived stress and anxiety symptom severity were the best predictors of adolescent PPD symptom severity. Study 2 examined the feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a behavioral skills training group intervention, based on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), among adolescents with PPD (N=24) recruited from both a public health parent education program and a specialty obstetrics clinic for adolescent mothers. Findings suggest the intervention was both feasible and associated with improvement in mental health and functional domains. Together these studies indicate that a number of domains are related to adolescent PPD symptoms, particularly anxiety symptom severity and perceived stress, and a DBT skills group may be effective in reducing symptoms of PPD, as well as other areas of difficulty for adolescent mothers.